Overcoming the Stigma of Being No Contact with Family

I have been no contact with my family since 2021, after moving to another state.

Childhood Experiences of Shame

In Middle School Home Economics, I was venting aloud to my friends about my father. Another classmate decided to interject his opinion of what I was saying by shaming me, even though I was speaking the truth:

“I can’t believe you would say that about your dad. I would never say those things about my dad.”

When I told this story as an adult to my friend who knew me since Elementary School, he replied, “You should have said, ‘That’s because your dad isn’t like that. My dad is a bastard…on a good day.'”

As often as people tend to shame those of us who go no contact with their families, I am seeing an unfortunate trend in generational trauma.

It starts with the grandparents of the current generation. Their beliefs about family are usually unconditional adoration for existing, along with forgiveness out of obligation. The belief that your family has sacrificed for your current life is a common excuse given to feel guilty and view your abusers as benevolent and entitled to stay in your life.

This is continued with your parents; usually, those in the Boomer generation. They push the narrative that they could have used those “strict” parenting methods on us, but they didn’t; therefore, we are in debt to them, after being given this gift of life that we didn’t ask for.

Mother’s and Father’s Day

Mother’s and Father’s Day sucks when you’re no contact with your family for your own sanity and survival. We are bombarded with discount offers for “Mom” and “Dad.” When I first ended contact, I felt guilt and obligated to partake in these holidays, even though I knew I wasn’t going to because that would endanger my well-being. It took time to stop feeling that I was doing something morally wrong by not breaking no contact to provide undeserved gifts to my abusers in recognition of a national holiday. Luckily, eventually, I did stop feeling bad about it. Now, I fully accept that the title of “parent” and the reward of celebration on these days should require proof that one is in fact doing their what their job title implies.

How does one know it’s the right choice?

As I see more people in my generation vocalizing how they went no contact with their families, I begin to wonder if most of the Boomer generation of parents truly are toxic as a whole–perhaps due to the flaws of their own parents as a result of social shame about therapy–or if there’s any truth to the arguments by those opposing the choice of no contact with family. The assumption from outsiders is that we must have had a simple argument with our families and all that’s needed is open communication between both parties. Perhaps, that is the case with some of the other people making this choice, but that doesn’t apply to me. I can say with total confidence that I put in more effort than anyone should, trying to “repair” relationships with my family members that they clearly intended to ensure remained an abusive cycle of madness for me. Every time I put in the work to resolve this, I received nothing more than guilt, manipulation, gaslighting, and it would continue again as if it was the first occurance. Eventually, one must acknowledge that this is how life is going to be if a relationship continues.

How do I know they purposely kept our relationship in a toxic cycle?

As a teenager, I went to therapy with my dad. During one session in particular, I witnessed the depth of his acting skills. Our therapist had asked me to give an example of a topic that I was having trouble discussing with him. I brought up lessons that I had been requesting he pay for because my mom could not afford them, and he makes much more money. I knew that it wouldn’t harm his income in any way to pay for them. He simply didn’t care if I had them. As soon as I brought this up, my dad reached into his shirt pocket, saying with annoyance, “I was going to wait until dinner tonight, but this is for you.” He handed me a check for the lessons. The therapist’s face lit up as she happily announced, “That’s a wonderful outcome. See?!”

To those inexperienced with manipulation, this would seem like a normal and positive resolution. To me, in that moment, I knew that he was guilt-tripping by using his annoyed tone and words to give me something very minor. He presented his response like I was putting him out by asking for such a small favor as his kid. Furthermore, since this was far from the first time we had discussed it, and each time I had been as polite as possible, I must have been an ungrateful, entitled and relentless kid because I had somehow beaten him into submission. In reality, I had merely asked for something I knew that he was fully capable but didn’t feel like doing because parenting in itself was a huge burden for him; even though he and my mother needed a sperm donor to create me.

As for my mom, there is too much to cover in a short article; however, one of the main examples were the endless arguments over the reality that, in this economy, having a college degree with honors does not mean you’re going to get a well-paid job. Employers don’t care that you earned straight A’s at a university. They care that you’ve already been fully trained and experienced in the position they’re hiring for, and that they can underpay you immensely; otherwise, don’t expect to be selected for the role. In private, it didn’t matter how many times I explained to my mother that I was applying daily for different positions, that I should have been qualified for, she was pissed and bewildered that I wasn’t employed with a full-time, permanant, well-paid position because of my education; therefore, even though I mentioned over and over that other millennials are experiencing the same thing, she would comment, “It must be something that you’re doing or not doing!” Looking back, I realize that she was projecting her own feelings of failure for not being able to impress people with her second child’s career success.

Cut to family gatherings in which I was asked about my job. I would explain to them my situation, and how common it is. Family members would agree, as well as validate my trouble because they know and accept the reality that the economy is different than from how it was before they started their careers. My mom would chime in, saying how badly she feels for me. She would repeat my words, saying, “She applies every day, but no one interviews her. Or, they interview her, and tell her that she’s not qualified. It’s really stressful.”

Cut to after my family leaves, and I’m alone again in the house with my mom. I would bring up my difficulty, thinking that she had an epiphany. Her response was mostly silence, with obvious distain on her face and in her body language, as if I wasn’t talking or whatever I was saying didn’t matter and/or was infurtiating. When she finally would respond, she simply resumed denying my reality.

As mentioned, eventually, I had to accept reality: Both of my parents purposely create conflict with me and enjoy my response of pain because of their actions. It makes them feel alive. It’s disgusting.

Choosing to be an Orphan

I began seeing videos by other surivors responding to Boomers trying to shame my generation for going no contact, while Boomers ask, “How could someone not speak with their parents? That’s your mother/father.” Fellow survivors flip the question back around where it should be: “What did a parent do to cause their child to willingly orphan themselves, instead of continuing such an important relationship?”

If you’re an orphan by choice reading this, please know that you are valid, and your reasons are valid.

You do not need to maintain contact with an abuser, no matter what position in your life they’re supposed to hold.

© 2023 social thoughts

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